As we attempted to finish our stories on Tennessee's victory over Vanderbilt late Saturday night while working inside the Vanderbilt Stadium press box, top-ranked Alabama's struggles at that moment against Auburn in the Iron Bowl led one sports writer to observe:
"(SEC) Commissioner (Mike) Slive needs to get on the phone and make sure the officials understand what happens if Auburn wins this game. That would be a very bad thing for the league."
Though officiating had nothing to do with the Crimson Tide's eventual 55-44 win over the Tigers, the writer's point was quite valid.
If Bama had suffered its second loss of the season against its 10 wins, it would still have reached the SEC championship game as the best of the West, but it would have almost no way to join the fortunate four schools that will ultimately determine the big boys' first playoff national champ.
Instead, thanks to the Tide's comeback victory, the league that's pretty much owned the sport since Tennessee won the inaugural BCS national title at the close of the 1998 season can continue to dream about winning the sport's first national playoff for at least one more week, silently hopeful that Bama will defeat East beast Missouri in the Georgia Dome on Saturday evening, since a Mizzou shocker would almost certainly leave the SEC outside those four playoff spots.
Not that the SEC necessarily looks like the best league right now. Not when the Atlantic Coast Conference swept through its four head-to-head meetings with the conference on Saturday, Louisville topping Kentucky, Clemson beating South Carolina, Florida State outlasting Florida and Georgia Tech breaking Georgia's heart in overtime.
In fact, were someone to label the SEC slightly overrated, what would be the counter-argument? Hey, you only beat the East? Such rhetoric might be accurate, since LSU beat Big Ten title game participant Wisconsin and Bama bested dangerous West Virginia -- the only team, so far, to beat Baylor -- on neutral fields. But it does give one pause to wonder how great the SEC really is at this moment.
Still, assuming Alabama defeats Mizzou, the Tide is all but guaranteed a playoff spot, where it will be joined by ... ?
Let's start with defending national champion Florida State and its controversial quarterback Jameis "Shame Us" Winston. Love or loathe the Seminoles -- and the majority of fans appear to fall in the loathe category -- you can't deny their refuse-to-lose toughness come the crunch.
Should they survive their Atlantic Coast Conference title game against grinding Georgia Tech, there's no way they shouldn't be selected to defend their title, even if that BCS title no longer exists. You can despise Winston; you can claim the ACC's weak; you can even say the 'Noles have been a wee bit lucky. You just can't say a team that's undefeated on the first week of December -- and the only UNBEATEN team in the mix -- shouldn't make the College Football Playoff.
Now if the Yellow Jackets beat them, that's another matter.
But let's say for argument's sake that both Bama and FSU win their league title games. That's half your field, but what about the other two spots? Who's the best of the rest?
Given that Oregon's only loss is to Arizona (for a second straight year, no less), if the Ducks can get past the Cactus Cats in the Pac 12 title game on Friday night, the third spot should go to the worst uniforms in college football -- all 198 versions of them.
Let Arizona win, however, and things could get downright messy.
At that point, the third spot should go to Baylor as long as the Bears can escape host Kansas State on Saturday night.
The fourth spot might then come down to TCU -- assuming the Horned Frogs win at Iowa State on Saturday afternoon -- and The Ohio State University.
The Buckeyes have spent most of the past two months looking like a team deserving of a postseason spot after losing early at home to Virginia Tech. J.T. Barrett -- who filled in at quarterback for injured Braxton Miller -- was growing more confident weekly. OSU needed help to overcome the Hokies defeat, but it seemed to have a legitimate argument for inclusion.
Then Barrett went down in Saturday's win over Michigan and the Buckeyes will be forced to start inexperienced Cardale Jones in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin on Saturday. It may be too much to ask, but if OSU somehow prevails over the Badgers, how can the playoff selection committee not consider the Buckeyes?
The guess from this corner is that the playoff seeds shake out as Bama (1), FSU (2), Oregon (3) and Baylor (4). That would make for Alabama-Baylor in one semi and FSU-Oregon in the other. And should that lead to a Bama-Oregon title game, the sport would be the winner, no matter who won on the scoreboard.
Just for fun, though, let's say Mizzou, Georgia Tech, Arizona, Wisconsin, Kansas State and Iowa State all win this weekend.
Think anyone had Mizzou, Florida State, Arizona and Georgia Tech in their preseason office pool?
Think that 12-member committee wouldn't wish the BCS and its computer rankings had hung around at least one year longer?
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org